HELSINKI (Reuters) - The euro zone bailout fund is not preparing financial support for Italy though some individual Italian banks have problems and need to raise capital, the head of the fund said on Friday.
Klaus Regling spoke two days after the Italian daily La Stampa reported that Italy was set to ask the ESM for a loan of 15 billion euros, quoting sources from the Treasury.
"We are not preparing anything. There are lots of rumors ... but this is not the case, we have not been approached by the Italian government (for help)," Regling told reporters in the Finnish capital Helsinki.
He said that Italy did not have a nationwide problem with its banking sector, despite the need of some individual lenders to raise more capital. "This is not at all like in 2009 or 2010 when we had several European countries with countrywide banking problems. Italy is not in that situation today," he said.
"Banks are stronger; they have used the last few years to strengthen their capital."
He added that the ESM had instruments available to respond to any future emergency.
"In theory, we are available to take capital in banks, to do direct banking capitalization. We supported the Spanish banking system in 2012. But again, this is not under consideration."
Italy's biggest lender, UniCredit <CRDI.MI>, is set to announce next week its largest bank share issue in what would be a major test of confidence in Italy's wider banking system, sources have told Reuters.
(Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Mark Heinrich)